In speaking with executives of SMB enterprise software companies (tech companies with less than $1b in annual revenues), one top of mind issue that prevails is how to improve messaging so that it better resonates with the audience. While some software companies have been successful staying with an extended horizontal play – one message for everyone – (Microsoft as an example), eventually even these organizations needed a segmentation approach.
Segmentation and targeting is not a cookie cutter approach. What works for one organization probably does not apply to another.
So here are some tips…
For most organizations, segmentation means “going vertical”. The reason is simple. If you are looking to refine messaging to identify business pain points, companies in the same segments have the same problems and pain. Other organizations tend to focus on what I call “cross-company segmentation” – focus on “like-kind” departments such as legal, marketing, finance, etc. regardless of the vertical.
So how does a small enterprise software company go vertical? The answer is…slowly and deliberately. The first step - get agreement across the organization what “going vertical” means because there are different approaches and or phases:
'Segmented messaging’ is typically a first “baby step” that many SMB software organizations choose when “going vertical”.
The challenge you face is: where do I get the content? The answers are:
‘Segmented marketing’ means that you plan to target your marketing messages directly to a given segment by developing an 'integrated marketing' model and I emphasize the word “integrated”. In the past, I have seen organizations move to segmented marketing but in a fragmented way, e.g., they run segmented lead generation campaigns but do not segment the message in media, public or analyst relations. I have never seen a fragmented marketing model work. In fact, every like-kind approach was an abysmal failure forcing the organization to revert back to the former “horizontal” model. (And typically try a vertical approach again a few years down the road).
Marketing messages need to be consistent. If your PR team is talking a different talk than your lead generation team, you will more than likely waste marketing dollars and never realize an acceptable ROI on segmentation.
‘Segmented sales’ occurs when the sales force is verticalized but this is not an all-or-nothing approach. In fact, in most cases, sales verticalization is localized. Metropolitan areas may realign sales over verticals where there are large concentrations of companies whereas rural geographies might identify multiple verticals or not verticalize at all. In some cases, both sales and pre-sales technical support may be verticalized or just sales. In other cases, (and this is prevalent in initial phases), sales will not be initially verticalized but sales “domain experts” - what we call “rain makers” - work with sales as an “overlay” function.
Unlike segmented marketing where only an integrated approach will work, there are many successful segmented sales models.
If you are a B2B marketer with a SMB technology company, please share your experiences as to how you perfected targeting and segmentation....
Therese (Terry) McGee is President and Executive Consultant at McGee Marketing Consultants. She and her team work with technology companies that sell highly complex products and services to help them discover their critical value, identify their target audience, develop the right message and content for the right channel — all to improve lead generation and sales.